Freshman Year Survival Guide

This is the beginning of a long and arduous journey…Okay, that statement is true, but maybe it’s not the best way to start. Bioengineering is a beautiful field, and this is the beginning of a transformative and amazing journey that will allow you to grow in ways you never thought possible. Growing involves some pain, though, so this page is here to provide you with resources and tips to help your freshman year go as smoothly as possible. In this guide, you will find information about transitioning to college courses, networking, mentorship, favorite restaurants, & more.

Transitioning to College Courses

Transitioning to College Courses

by Minh Nguyen

Getting Organized

High school is not like college, at least sometimes. Depending on your high school rigor and program, you may underestimate the intensity of collegiate-level work. Take it from someone who got straight A’s in high school and then promptly earned a C+ in General Chemistry during their first semester at UIUC. Be a bit cautious when it comes to estimating the course load and time that school work will require. Take some time to prioritize your school work and adjust to your schedule, then after that, go and have fun.

Speaking of schedule, the next topic we should discuss is scheduling and organization. It’s commonly said that you should be “organized” but what does that actually look like in the collegiate setting? I recommend two tools for managing your time and schedule, the first is a calendar of some sort.

Personally, I feel that an online calendar is the best option here: it’s easily accessible from multiple devices, easy to edit events, and easy to share with others to aid in planning. As a bonus, you can import your schedule from Banner and have your courses automatically populate into Google Calendar. If you prefer a physical calendar then that’s fine as well. Just make sure you have something that can keep track of important dates for you. Make sure you schedule your classes, but also the dates that your homework and big assignments are due as well as your midterms and finals. This goes for events and meetings as well. Having one place that you can reference for all of your upcoming obligations will help you be more punctual and prepared for the events to come.

The next tool I recommend is a notebook or just the notes app on your phone. This is to keep track of the assignments and day-to-day activities that need to be completed. This can include homework assignments, pre-labs, readings, or just anything that you need to complete. This should constantly be updated with the specific class and the specific assignment you are responsible for. It’s easy to say you want to “study” from 12 pm to 3 pm, but without a clear agenda for the assignments that you need to complete and which you should prioritize, it can be difficult. You may accidentally bounce between different assignments and complete them in a very scattered manner as opposed to individually and thoroughly.

You should definitely download and keep all of the syllabi from your courses. You never know when you may need to check the grading scheme for a course or the contact information of specific people. Additionally, programs in the future may ask you for the content that was covered in a course, and it’s easier to pull it from your files than to email professors from years back.


Office Hours
Attend your office hours! Both TA’s and Professor’s office hours can prove to be very helpful, especially if you have very specific questions. My recommendation is to come in with example problems and questions and go through them step by step with your TA or Professor. Educators are much better at clearly explaining topics in a one-on-one situation where they can take more time to support individual students. Additionally, becoming a familiar face that Professors and TAs associate with effort and initiative to improve is always a good thing.

C.A.R.E. Tutoring
In terms of tutoring, the Grainger College of Engineering offers CARE tutoring. This is specific for students in the College of Engineering and they provide peer tutoring and aid on several subjects that many engineering students will commonly take such as TAM, Physics, Calculus, and Organic Chemistry to name a few. Attending these CARE tutoring hours will provide you with help from students who have taken these classes and are certified to be employed by the University.

Study Tips

Just get started!
Now that you’ve planned out what to do, let’s move into actually completing your work. The biggest tip I have is to just start. In my opinion, the hardest part of sitting down to study is actually sitting down. If you need to, go to a library or building where you can be in a more focused environment as compared to your dorm room where your bed is right next to your desk, tempting you to spend just 5 more minutes laying down on your phone. Set a specific time that you want to study, and set a timer, it’s easier to sit down and begin studying if you can explicitly signify the start of work and the end of the play. Set your phone on silent and put it in your bag, out of sight and out of reach. If you have trouble with distractions, I recommend having a Pomodoro timer on in the background or a “Study With Me” YouTube video on silent in the background. This way you can monitor your progress, take scheduled breaks, and feel proud that you have earned some phone time after your diligent work. Great job!

Pomodoro Timer
Generic Pomodoro Timer (25 min)
My favorite YouTuber to study with (50 min)

What to do when you’re stuck
Studying is a crucial part of being a student, and it’s going to take up a lot of time. But what if you still don’t understand the content after your studies? I recommend a few different avenues when faced with this problem. The first is to take a break. I know, seems a bit counterintuitive right? The fact is, if you’ve been hammering a concept for hours with little progress, chances are you may just need a new perspective to understand it. Don’t get frustrated and upset, get up, take a short walk, listen to music – do whatever you need to get out of a negative mentality. Revisit the content after and see if it makes more sense now. You’ve physically broken the negative momentum that the content has been having on you, so look at it now with a fresh set of eyes and an open mind.

Meeting with other students
Another strategy I would recommend is to meet with other students in the same class as yours. Anything you’re struggling with, someone else probably is too. Make the effort to meet other students and form groups by getting contact information and planning study sessions. You’d be surprised how often other students are willing to study in groups as long as everyone is contributing and courteous.

Everitt Lab Atrium - 1st Floor
Everitt Lab Atrium – 1st Floor

Favorite Study Spaces!

Everitt Atrium
Everitt is the place to be if you want to run into your friends, upperclassmen, and professors. The 1st level atrium usually has nice light noise, while the 2nd level atrium is generally quiet. Both levels have standing desks.

Champaign Public Library
If you are up for the trek off campus, the Champaign Public Library is pretty breathtaking as far as libraries go. Seriously, it’s a beautiful space.

ACES Library
If you want to get away from engineering territory for a while, the ACES library is a really nice (octagonal!) space.

Bahl Smart Bridge between Newmark Civil Engineering Lab and Hydrosystems Lab
This space has a lot of natural light as well as nice standing desks and group tables.

Main Library
If you want a quiet space, 2nd floor is the place to go. The underground tunnel between the main and undergraduate library also has a unique atmosphere for studying.

Other recommendations
Altgeld Library, Boneyard Creek, Campus Instructional Facility (CIF)

Pro tip
You can also camp out in any open classroom across campus. Sometimes RSOs or classes will have them reserved, but they will let you know if you need to move

Reserve a room
BIOE Conference Room Reservation 
University Library Room Reservation

Networking and Mentoring
A BMES Team at EOH 2022
A BMES Team at EOH 2022
Photo taken by Evan Ko
BIOE student presenting their ISUR work at the Engineering Research Fair
BIOE student presenting their ISUR work at the Engineering Research Fair
Photo taken by Evan Ko


  • Join RSOs to meet people as everyone is also new here and trying to meet new people
    • Definitely join BMES
    • Visit Quad Day to see what RSOs are on campus
  • Attend workshops to try and get an idea about what you like academically and might want to do long-term
  • Start early with Engineering Career Services resources and opportunities
  • ILEE double major
  • IPENG international experiences
  • Office of Undergraduate Research programs: URAP (undergraduate research) and workshops
  • Grainger Engineering programs: MUSE (grad mentorship), PURE (undergraduate research), and ISUR (undergraduate research)
  • Talk to advisors, and upperclassmen and attend coffee chats!
  • Join the BMES Mentorship program to talk to BIOE graduates about their career experiences
Cancer Scholars Testimonial

“The Cancer Scholars program was influential to building my network on campus. I chose to apply to the Cancer Scholars program because of several family members who had cancer. I wanted support to undertake undergraduate research in this area. The program has two 1-credit courses that are low-stress but cover interesting topics in cancer biology and technology. My most important take-aways were the community of my peers and support from professors to begin research early. These helped set me on the path to have positive research experiences. My cohort of Cancer Scholars introduced me to some of my good friends on campus now, and the classes were a great time to check-in every week about the stress in our shared courses. The professors in the program were very supportive; they helped us write emails to professors to get into research labs, and even offered to talk to the professors if we did not receive a response. We also got to talk with many of the BIOE professors in the department when they came to our class to present their research. Overall, the community and support to begin research early I gained from this program were key to motivating me in my undergraduate research and providing exposure to opportunities like REU’s and campus research.”

Elisabeth Martin, ’22
Hoeft Technology & Management Program Testimonials

“I chose to apply to the Hoeft T&M Program because it gives students in the program a breadth of practical experience in business and engineering beneficial to professional leadership roles. The program is beneficial because it provides a vast alumni network, a community of peers in both Gies and Grainger, and courses specifically designed for T&M students. The program differs from a business minor because the business courses taken are a specific T&M section, so the professors teach the business principles with engineering in mind. There are social and professional events, and the program is free to participate in, thanks to our corporate sponsors (Abbott being most relevant to Bioengineering). There is a Senior Capstone course the last semester of senior year, in which a project with a corporate sponsor is completed. It is a 22-credit minor, and Bioengineering is already a rigorous major, so it’s important to plan ahead in your academic schedule to accommodate the curriculum.

A job I hope to hold during my career is a Clinical Engineer. The role is a bridge-builder between bioengineers who design and manufacture medical devices and doctors and patients who they are intended for. This role is applicable to T&M because it combines the technological understanding of medical devices with the sales skills necessary to market the devices. It requires business skills to communicate the benefits and details of a device to a patient, making them feel assured and safe in their decision to allow technology to impact their health. With this, I am often asked which class in the T&M curriculum was my favorite. My answer is the marketing class because I learned a valuable lesson: products are marketed for their benefits, not necessarily their technology. Whether it be a role like Clinical Engineering in industry, a biotech start-up, or research on new technologies, it is important to have well-rounded experience to understand the business principles of bioengineering innovations.”

Stephanie Slowik, ’22

“As an engineering major, I had the urge to develop a deeper understanding of business topics such as product development and finance management to learn how to design more sustainable and scalable solutions. Therefore, I knew the T&M program would provide me the perfect platform to explore my interest in the intersection between engineering, technology, and business. Enrolling in the T&M Seminar class the semester prior to the application cycle also played an important role in my decision to apply to the T&M program. In that semester-long course, I got the opportunity to converse with corporate leaders and collaborate with peers across engineering and business backgrounds, which confirmed my desire in pursuing this minor. Overall, the importance the T&M program gives to interdisciplinary team work, experiential learning and being a part of the inspiring and diverse T&M community were compelling factors in my decision to apply to the T&M program.

I have experienced tremendous personal and professional growth since I have joined the T&M program. Through the T&M courses, I have gained a whole new perspective of the integral role of technology and innovation in the medical device industry. These classes have helped me develop a strong business decision-making and problem-solving mindset. In addition, the T&M program has provided me with valuable exposure to the professional world through the career development workshops, networking opportunities with our corporate sponsors such as Abbott, and industry-centered projects. Access to the vast T&M alumni network has also been very beneficial in making my career choices because the alumni provide incredible guidance and support to the program. Above all, I have gotten the chance to interact with such unique and talented people in this program and make long-lasting friendships.

I am currently an Engineering Operations Intern at Abbott, and I am thoroughly enjoying working on exciting projects related to healthcare and medical devices. My career goal is to work in an engineering + business related role in a healthcare company post-graduation. I eventually plan to pursue an MBA in order to complement my engineering undergraduate education.

For anyone who is looking to diversify their skillset outside of your current major and meet students across campus who share a similar passion for the intersection of engineering, technology, and business, I would strongly encourage you to apply to the T&M program. This program prepares students for a technical, interdisciplinary, and team-based industry environment and provides ample opportunities to pursue your career interests. Because the T&M program is very competitive, ensure you demonstrate a high level of commitment to the program and a genuine interest in both the engineering and business fields when applying to the program. If you are a freshman, I would encourage you to consider taking the T&M seminar course, which is during the fall semester of your sophomore year, because it provides a great insight into the program and can help you decide if this minor is right for you. Lastly, if you have any questions about the T&M minor, I would strongly recommend talking with upperclassmen who are currently in the program, and we would be happy to help you in any way we can!”

Teju Govindaraman ’23

Mentorship Programs

Photo Scavenger Hunt with BMES Buddies
Photo Scavenger Hunt with BMES Buddies

The Grainger College of Engineering offers merit-based scholarships for continuing students (sophomores and up). This application typically opens mid-February and is due the second week of March. If selected for a scholarship(s) for the following academic year, you should be notified the beginning of May.

In addition to having a high GPA and strong letters of recommendation, it is highly recommended to be involved with campus and community activities. This way, you will have substantial experiences to reflect on in your short-answer responses, especially leadership roles. The above link has more information about the evaluation process.

As a freshman, you shouldn’t stretch yourself thin by joining too many RSOs. It is better to be in a handful of RSOs that you’re really passionate about and invest your time in rather than join a lot of RSOs where you just show up to meetings. In addition, try to get to know your professors well throughout the fall semester so they can write you a letter of recommendation before March.

Self-Care and Food Recommendations
Trees at Allerton Park
Allerton Park


Favorite Restaurants!

On Campus

The Bread Company (Italian)
The Bread Company has both a lunch and dinner menu. Their lunch options include soups and sandwiches, while their dinner menu mostly consists of pizza, pasta, and appetizers. They have a super cute area in the back of the restaurant that makes you feel like you are eating in a quaint European restaurant. Their classic fondue is incredible!

Bangkok Thai
One of the best Thai restaurants on campus. I totally recommend their Pad Thai and fried rice. Sometimes their levels of added spiciness can be inconsistent.

Jip Bap (Korean)
Cheap and tasty Korean food is conveniently served in takeout cups. Located only 1 block away from Everitt Lab; I like to go there before exams.

Red Herring (Vegetarian)
Red Herring has limited hours on weekdays, but they offer a variety of vegetarian options. It is also a well-known spot for professors to work and eat.

Ko Fusion (Asian Fusion & Sushi)
The Urbana location is slightly cheaper than the downtown Champaign location. They have amazing stir fry and dollar sushi options.

Shawarma Joint (Middle Eastern)
The bowls here are really good–while the price can be a bit on the higher side, the portion sizes are large and are really good with the included pita bread.

Jurassic Grill (Burgers)
They have amazing french fries and burgers!

Monolo’s (Pizza & Empanadas)
Monolos has great pizza by the slice if you are looking for a quick bite to eat. They also have both savory and sweet empanadas to satisfy your cravings. 

Legends (Bar Food)
Legends is a classic college pub with a variety of comfort food. It is a great place to go to watch sports games and hang out with friends. 

Four Breakfast and More (Breakfast food and misc)
Four Breakfast and More has an incredibly diverse menu. I personally love their breakfast wrap!

Mia Za’s (Italian)
This Italian restaurant serves multiple options for pizza, sandwiches, salad, and pasta which can be customized. It’s really close to Everitt, and the food is made hot for you right after your order.

Other recommendations
Signature Grill (Indian & chaat)

Downtown Champaign

Cowboy Monkey (Tex-Mex)
Seven Saints (Bar Food)
Pizzeria Antica (Pizza)
Himalayan Chimney (Indian)
Big Grove Tavern (American)
Watson’s Shack & Rail (Southern comfort food)

Bread Company Grilled Cheese and French Onion Soup
Bread Company Grilled Cheese and French Onion Soup
Cowboy Monkey Carne Asada Crisp and Chicken Tacos
Cowboy Monkey Carne Asada Crisp and Chicken Tacos
Bangkok Thai Fried Rice
Bangkok Thai Fried Rice